Monday 24th June 2024.

June 23, 2024


Although in the last five years Panama has faced various critical challenges that have affected its social and economic development, the outgoing administration of Laurentino Cortizo leaves a legacy of “indolence” and inaction,” warned the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture. of Panama (Cciap) in its Sunday column.

“If the outgoing Government demonstrated anything, it was an alarming irresponsibility and lack of courage in making decisions on critical issues that affect the well-being and future of the country,” he says.

The Chamber highlights as one of the most controversial issues, the management of the Social Security Fund (CSS) and its Disability, Old Age and Death (IVM) program and accuses the outgoing administration of generating uncertainty about the future of retirements and pensions of many Panamanians.

In the educational field, the union criticized the prolonged closure of schools during the pandemic. “The vaunted concept of Education as ‘the star’ was nothing more than another campaign ruse, soon abandoned,” the letter says.

They also highlight the management of solid waste and how this problem has contributed to unhealthy conditions in the quality of life of the communities and has deteriorated the image of the country among tourists.

Regarding the management of water resources, he says that the current administration did not foresee ensuring new sources of water, both for the population and for the operation of the Panama Canal.

They affirm that trust in public institutions also suffered during this administration and emphasize the management of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and the Comptroller General of the Republic, institutions that have been criticized for non-transparent and politicized practices.

On the other hand, the association recognizes the government’s efforts made during the covid-19 pandemic. However, they refuse to present this as the administration’s main achievement, as it has been perceived by some as an example of the lack of results in other critical areas. “We Panamanians are paying a high price as a result of the inaction of the government administration that is about to end,” they noted.

Furthermore, they call on the next authorities to have the courage to make the necessary changes to guarantee a prosperous and equitable future for all Panamanians.

During the 2019-2024 government period, three entities found themselves in the eye of the hurricane due to severe criticism for the lack of transparency in the management and spending of public funds, which in total amounted to $4,330.6 million.

The National Assembly, the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu ) and the National Decentralization Authority (AND) were repeatedly pointed out by citizens and civil society organizations for the lack of control and supervision in the management of state resources, generating public distrust and outrage and demands for greater accountability.

In said period, the National Assembly spent $950.6 million , Ifarhu used $2,215.2 million and the National Decentralization Authority used $1,164.8 million.

What can be done with 4,330.6 million dollars in five years? For example, with that amount it would have been possible to build two Metro lines, some 400 schools of excellence like Guillermo Endara Galimany or 100 stadiums like the recently inaugurated Mariano Rivera.

During the period 2019-2024, the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) was the entity that received the largest budget among the three mentioned, reaching a total of $2,215.2 million.

Ifarhu’s high budget generated controversy due to the discretionary allocation of financial aid. Although the regulations establish preference for the most needy students and from vulnerable areas, many aid was granted to officials, relatives of ministers, deputies, diplomats, State suppliers, members of the PRD and people without apparent economic needs, including President Laurentino Cortizo.

La Prensa revealed a database that details a significant portion of Ifarhu’s economic aid program, listing 2,144 beneficiaries between July 2019 and May 2023, with a total expenditure of $141.6 million. However, this figure represents only a fraction of the total, since the beneficiaries of another 2,759 disbursements are still unknown.

In the last five years (2019-2024), the National Assembly of Panama has spent more than $950 million, allocating 90% of that budget to payroll and other operating expenses. This significant disbursement has generated concern and criticism about the efficiency and justification of such expenses in an entity that, according to the Comptroller General of the Republic, employs some 4,200 permanent and temporary officials.

Furthermore, the National Assembly is the state entity with the largest number of advisors, with about 400, whose annual cost amounts to 14 million dollars. This number represents a radical increase of 408% compared to 2010, when there were 81 advisors whose annual cost was 1.9 million dollars.

This increase has sparked debates about the need and transparency of such positions, and their impact on the state budget. Magistrate Alfredo Juncá said it when presenting credentials to the elected deputies this week: we must “depoliticize” the National Assembly.

The National Assembly that will be installed on July 1 will not be the same. There will be transcendental events around it that compete in importance. One of them is that the largest bench is made up of deputies who were not nominated by political parties; another, that for the first time, since 2018, the omnipotent Budget Commission will not be chaired by Benicio Robinson . Yes, you read correctly: this week, Robinson announced that he will not aspire to direct it, although he warned that whoever replaces him must understand that this position “is not for lazy people.” It must be recognized that he worked hard to leave an indelible mark: in the last six years, the commission’s agenda has been an enigma more complex than the riddle of the sphinx, the technical budget documents are non-existent, minutes are signed on transfers of items that have not been discussed in the sessions, and these happen without prior notice, when they feel like it. Furthermore, they have happily scored “goals” in the general state budget law, and the supervisory role that they have had to exercise seems to be only used in the “little room.” Are we – finally – about to witness a favorable change in the way the use of public funds is decided?

But Benicio no longer wants to preside over the only instance of the government apparatus in which its members openly ask “what’s in it for me?” -without anything happening to them- does not mean that his seat will remain headless. In fact, he announced that he will not leave the Assembly even to go to Parlacen and that he has given his seat in that body to his substitute. He says that God has “blessed” him to represent the voters of the 1-1 circuit for another period (the eighth). The justification based on a divine design is surely the same one that he applies to hurricanes, pandemics and wars.

The call opened by the Social Security Fund (CSS) to select the new general director for the period 2024-2029 has attracted the attention of about 29 professionals , who have presented their documentation in a process that seeks to define the future leadership of a of the most important entities in the country.

This is one of the main challenges of the elected president , José Raúl Mulino : to choose a person who can face the crisis of the entity, a consequence of the low collection of the worker-employer quota with which the pensions are financed.

One day after the registration process closed, a list of applicants was circulated yesterday Saturday. Although the CSS has not officially made the list public, internal sources of the entity confirmed to La Prensa that these are indeed the names and the amount.

Among those interested are some well-known faces such as Rolando Villalaz, former deputy director of the CSS, and actuary Dino Mon, who already presented their roles in 2019 when the current director, Enrique Lau Cortés, was elected. Both confirmed that they delivered their documentation.

The generation of jobs through the travel and tourism industry in Panama this year will amount to 392 thousand people, for a contribution of 13.5 billion dollars to the local economy, which will represent a contribution of 19.5% to the gross domestic product. (GDP).

This is estimated by a study carried out by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), based in London, England, together with Oxford Economics, which highlights the great potential that the country has to attract tourists. by air and sea and reinforce the commitment to a sustainable destination in which nature is highlighted.

Julia Simpson, president of the WTTC, recalled that by 2019 the industry contributed 15% of the gross domestic product to the Panamanian economy and by 2023 it rose to 15.2%, meaning 12.9 billion dollars.

Last year, employment in the tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants, transportation, among other related activities such as air transportation, was 380,000 people, which is equivalent to 47,500 additional jobs than those registered before the pandemic in the year 2019. He specified that the country stood out last year among the 98 destinations that broke records in terms of the economic contribution of this industry to the GDP.

“Panama is consolidating itself as one of the most resilient countries globally, in terms of tourism. With positive figures, it reinforces the role of this sector as a pillar for social development and the growth of its economy, while continuing to be a global tourism benchmark.”

The WTTC representative said that spending by international visitors in Panama will reach a historic high with 9.4 billion dollars, an increase of more than 23% compared to 2019. Likewise, spending on domestic tourism is expected to achieve a record of 2.2 billion dollars.

Simpson also revealed that by 2034 the Panamanian tourism industry will be valued at 19.1 billion dollars and will contribute more than 15% of GDP. “In Panama, it is expected that 472 thousand people will be employed in the tourism sector within a decade. There are sectors such as luxury tourism that are growing in Panama and Copa Airlines represents a third of the air connections that exist, directly generating 150 thousand tourists who come to Panama through the StopOver program,” he indicated.

More articles